Marine Strategy

The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 require action to be taken to achieve or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) in our seas.

The Regulations require the production of a “Marine Strategy” for all UK waters and that the approach is coordinated across all four UK Administrations. It also requires cooperation with other countries sharing our seas. The objective of the UK Marine Strategy reflects the UK’s vision of having “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”. It helps to deliver key international obligations and commitments to protect and preserve the marine environment including those under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development), the OSPAR North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Strategy applies an ecosystem-based approach to the management of human activities. In doing so, it seeks to keep the collective pressure of human activities within levels compatible with the achievement of GES. Achieving GES will maintain the capacity of marine ecosystems to respond to human-induced changes and enable the sustainable use of marine goods and services by present and future generations.

The Marine Strategy considers 11 qualitative descriptors, alongside a wide range of human activities and prevailing physiographic, geographic and climatic conditions.

The 11 descriptors are:

  • D1 - Biological diversity (cetaceans, seals, birds, fish, pelagic habitats and benthic habitats);
  • D2 - Non-indigenous species;
  • D3 - Commercially-exploited fish and shellfish;
  • D4 - Food webs (cetaceans, seals, birds, fish and pelagic habitats);
  • D5 – Eutrophication;
  • D6 - Sea-floor integrity (benthic habitats);
  • D7 - Hydrographical conditions;
  • D8 – Contaminants;
  • D9 - Contaminants in fish and other seafood;
  • D10 - Marine litter; and
  • D11 - Underwater noise.

The UK Marine Strategy comprises three parts with the Regulations requiring updates to be made every six years:

Part One: UK Assessment and Good Environmental Status

Part One of the UK Marine Strategy provides an assessment of our seas and sets objectives, targets and indicators for achieving GES. The Initial Assessment of our seas was first published in December 2012. The Updated Assessment was published in October 2019 and laid the foundations for the second 6 year implementation cycle of the Strategy.

The State of the Seas report provided the Northern Ireland detail of the 2012 Initial Assessments with Charting Progress 2 providing a comprehensive report on the state of UK seas in 2012. The Marine Online Assessment Tool (MOAT) was launched in 2019 alongside the updated Updated Assessment, it provides access to the integrated assessments and the 60 indicator assessments used to track progress towards GES and makes the science underpinning the assessments readily available and easily accessible to all.

Part Two: UK Monitoring Programmes

Part Two of the UK Marine Strategy sets out how progress towards GES will be monitored. The first UK Marine Monitoring Programme was published in July 2014. In August 2020 the UK Government consulted on proposals for an updated monitoring programme and published the Summary of Responses in March 2021. The UK Updated Monitoring Programme was published in March 2021.

Part Three: UK Programme of Measures

Part Three of the UK Marine Strategy outlines the measures that contribute to the achievement and maintenance of GES in UK seas. The first UK Programme of Measures was published in December 2015. The measures are regularly reviewed and a consultation on the updated Programme of Measures was completed November 2021. The final Updated Programme of Measures is expected to be published later in 2022

If you would like to be added to the Marine Strategy stakeholder list to be kept informed of updates to the UK Marine Strategy please contact:

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